“Please Call Me Jimmy, Or Not” or “5 Observations About Language” or “Please Chill The Hell Out Word Police”

Many of my students claim that they find it difficult to argue with a good number of my blogs, in spite of the fact I strongly encourage them to do so. I would like to believe one reason it may be difficult to argue is due to my practice of anticipating objections and addressing those antithetical arguments first and foremost…while making it very clear what I am NOT saying.

This blog will continue with that strategy and quite intentional tradition.

So today I argue that we live in an age of absurd politically correct language—that is reaching near ridiculous levels—and that I most definitely do NOT serve on the politically correct language committee. I also believe our (the universal “our”) collective linguistic sensibilities are far too easily offended.

It is therefore now imperative to make it clear what I am NOT saying when I suggest you all just need to relax when it comes to the use of, for some, emotionally charged words.

I am not suggesting that we use intentional hurtful language toward anyone or any group. I am not suggesting that if we know a word or label to be hurtful to someone to use it. I am not suggesting that all words are appropriate for all occasions. I AM suggesting that we should use words, labels and phrases that a person or group prefers to be addressed.

And should we screw that up? Chill out…we actually have real problems in the world. Like REAL problems.

Take the issue of one’s name. When I was a child most referred to me as “Jimmy.” When I started to get older, I transitioned for a few years to James, then, circa high school, I was officially Jim. Upon reaching mid-life crisis circa mid-forties, in a futile effort to reconnect with anything youth, I elected to go back to my roots…and requested to be called, once again, Jimmy. You may think it silly that I now prefer this moniker, yet who the hell cares what you think? Just call me what I prefer regardless of the reason I prefer. And guess what? I will call you whatever it is you prefer as well…no verbal skin off Jimmy’s back.

If your name is Norman yet you prefer to be called Bubba, I am so down.

This is called common courtesy and makes the village a slightly better place.

Now, that said, should you opt to call me something other than Jimmy…I really do not give a shit.

I realize it is only a damn word and in the grand scheme of things, means relatively nothing.

At the more macro level, the problem is our acceptable phrases and monikers are changing at light speed and we cannot always keep up with the right term at the right time—so put your word guns down language police, not everyone checks in with PC committee when they wake up each morning.

What I am arguing is that we (once again, the universal “we”) place WAY too much emphasis on the role of language, as if words are some sort of sacred cows and possess an inherent meaning all their own that are worthy of respect…not.

Here are five basic observations about words:

  1. Words are arbitrary, subjective and constantly subject to change. According to Linguist and one time US Senator, now dead, SI Hayakawa, the term broadcast used to be an agricultural term referring to a farmer planting the fields, “broadly casting” the seed in the ground. Ready? Nice used to mean foolish, silly used to mean worthy and blessed, awful used to mean “in awe of,” naughty used to mean having nothing, clue used to mean a ball of yarn, guy used to mean a frightful figure (ok…maybe a bad example), egregious used to mean distinguished, flirt used to mean flicking something away, while sick used to mean being ill and some of us old farts still might use it this way. How can we trust the meaning of a word when it can change meaning at any time and we can never be absolutely certain of the intended meaning behind it?
  1. The only meaning a word has is the meaning we assign to it. There are some words that are so elastic we can stretch them to mean whatever it is we want them to mean. My British friends love the word “brilliant.” When I use this word I refer to something completely extraordinary or smart and amazing. They could use it to describe their most recent bowel movement. To many Brits, nearly every underwhelming feat is overwhelmingly brilliant which is, uh, well, not so brilliant—if you ask me. Comedian Louis CK has a spot-on bit about our incorrect use of the words “starving” and “hilarious” which IS absolutely hilarious…sorry Louis.
  1. No two people share the identical meaning for the identical word. Like the words described above, each of us share a sometimes ever-so-slightly nuanced version of the same word. If I tell you I have a big dog, this could mean a large canine but that could mean St. Bernard big or German Shepherd big. Or it could mean eating a big, fat frankfurter with mustard. Or, hell, according to my students it could mean a horny guy….but then it would be dawg or Dogg, I guess. Concepts such as rich, poor, hungry and ill, for example, are so vague as to mean nothing on their own accord. My rich could be another man’s poor.
  1. Meaning is found in people, not in words. For a fascinating speech on the use of the cursed “N-Word” you must check out Marlita Hill’s 1999 award- winning presentation. As she observes, it is the meaning behind the word that matters, not the word itself. In regards to the popular 1970’s series Roots, she observes the overuse of the word nigger, yet contends, given the context of the movie, the script demands it must remain that way. She says, “Does the slave master have to keep using that word – over and over again – I mean, couldn’t he just had said: “I’m gonna rape your wife and kill you – you god damn n-word. I hate n-words.” Get it? The meaning was hateful and any attempt toward a euphemism would have been greatly misguided and ineffective. The opposite can be true as well. I could utter a politically correct word with vitriol and hate in my voice. Meanings matter, not words.
  1. Words are ultimately incapable of conveying the precise message of our meaning. I can hear it now, “But wait Jimmy, you are using words right now. You are a hypocrite.” Yes, I am using words at this very moment because it is the best tool we have for expressing meaning –and I would drink water off my front lawn or out of my toilet bowl if that were my only choice for hydration. Of course I would launch into my belief expressing the importance of nonverbal communication as a means to determine meaning, yet that is a different blog for a different day.

I personally have been reprimanded more than once for using a term I believed was both sensitive and appropriate only to be shamed regardless of my loving and supportive intention. So I could not give Bill Maher a more boisterous “AMEN” when, on his recent HBO Real Time show, he criticized actor Michael Keaton for profusely apologizing when gave the wrong title for a movie he was discussing.

“Cue the outrage, cue the retraction,” Maher said, then quoted part of Keaton’s apology—with crocodile tears added: “I screwed up. It makes me feel so badly that people feel badly and if someone feels badly that’s all that matters.”

“No,” said Maher returning to his own voice. “That’s not all that matters. In fact, things like this don’t matter at all. What matters is that while you self-involved fools were policing the language at the kids’ choice awards, a madman talked his way into the White House. What matters is that while liberals were in a contest to see who could be the first to call out fat-shaming, the Tea Party has been busy taking over schools boards.”

Maher then advised Hollywood liberals to “stop protecting your virgin ears” and pay more attention to what was happening (in so many words) behind them.

Regardless of one’s politics or love/hate of Trump or conservative school boards, if any of you know me AT ALL, you know I absolutely love it when a person is able to criticize his/her own side when something is believed to be wrong or misguided. The world would be a much saner place if we all could practice such objective and critical impartiality.

The point is clear…when it comes to language and politics in general, it is a good idea to not major on the minors and minor on the majors.

So people, can we please take our language with a grain of salt? I will not be offended if you call me Jim, James or that crazy Hungarian for that matter.

So have at it word police, whatcha got for me?

I know you all could argue with me on this one. Brilliantly, I’m sure. 🙂

 

 

4 GREAT, Foolproof Reasons To Use Profanity In Your Everyday Life. Hell Yeah.

Let’s get to it. I recently heard through the gossip grapevine that one student of mine did not like me. Why? I apparently used too much profanity for his liking in one of my classes.

Well la tee freaking dah.

Of course this is not the first time one has not appreciated my colorful and free-range use of the English language, nor will it be the last. Yet, there are reasons behind my profanity madness. My use of profanity is neither flippant nor without deep critical thought and consideration -it is quite calculated. So, today, I share with you these reasons and perhaps you will be enlightened to the reasoning behind my profane ways. Thus, I bring to you:

Four reasons why I, and why YOU, should use profanity.

A wise person once told me that when delivering a potentially controversial message, it is important to begin with what you are definitely NOT saying before you address what you ARE saying. Soooo…

First and foremost, I am in no way suggesting the use of profanity is good for everyone, all the time. Like everything in life, there is a time and place. Context is everything.

Secondly, I am vehemently opposed to hateful, vengeful, mean-spirited words and speech intended for ill will. However, such speech knows no specific words, only motivation and intent. One could be mean spirited with or without profanity -there are plenty of “non-profane” words that are obscene in intent. Isn’t it interesting how our culture delineates between words that are profane and words that are not while the “profane” words may be kindly and gently spirited in intention, while the non-profane words are acceptable-yet full of ill will and contempt? Ah, such tension. And hypocrisy. Now let’s get reasonable and get started.

1. When prohibiting yourself from using profanity, you are limiting your word choices to most accurately communicate with others. Communication is a difficult enough process -why make it more difficult by not allowing ourselves to use the full arsenal of vocabulary choices available to us? Good communication is all about knowing your audience and/or the person to whom you are communicating. In many contexts, profanity is going to be the best language choice available. In other cases, one might argue that profanity might be the worst possible choice –talking to a classroom of preschoolers, let’s say. However, even if the person/group you are communicating with does not use profanity, what better way for them to get to know you than by using words that you feel most comfortable using? I have found that using profanity in normally formal environments brings about a tone of realness and genuineness to the occasion while making others feel more comfortable and able to share their true thoughts and feelings on issues. You might say it serves to breakdown the bullshit formality that exists so often in life.

Again, am I suggesting to always use profanity? Of course not. I am saying that sometimes the intense  beauty of a finely placed profanity is an unparalleled and wonderful experience and should be considered a communication option.

2. Profanity has a positive, relieving effect on your psyche when used in the proper context to let off steam and/or decrease your feeling of pain. In June 2009, researchers at Keele University in England sought to determine why the automatic response for so many people in pain is to blurt out profanity. You know, like after stubbing your toe, a good “FUCK ME!” is usually in order. In snippets taken from this article, researchers found 68 college-aged students and asked each to submerge one hand in icy water for as long as they could possibly stand it. They were trying to test if students could keep their hands submerged longer if they used curse words or non-curse words.

During the first trial, the students were permitted to swear out loud as often as they needed to see if it could lengthen the period of time that the hand could stay submerged. During the second trial, the students submerged their other hand in the icy water and this time, they were permitted to say whatever they wanted, as long as it did not contain swearing. It was determined that, on average, swearing students could hold their hands in the water over 40 seconds longer than when they did not swear. Why were the swearing students able to keep their hands in icy water longer? These researchers have found that the amygdala, a gland that makes the heart speed up and the resistance to pain stronger, as the key. It is basically responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction. The theory is that using actual cuss words somehow activates deep primitive negative emotions, which somehow triggers the amygdala to choose the “fight” response. The fight response then raises your heart rate and decreases pain sensations, just like swearing after feeling pain.

So, even though cursing is often thought of as reflective of inappropriateness, it may be that profane language has the power to decrease pain that general speech does not. Keele University psychologist, Dr. Richard Stevens, summarized his findings and offered this sound advice after the study was over: “I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear.”

And you all thought it was just me. Fuck you. ☺

quote-Mark-Twain-under-certain-circumstances-profanity-provides-a-relief-100676_2

3. Like Marlita Hill contends in this brilliant speech concerning the word, “nigger,” (if you have never watched this 11 minute speech, treat yourselves to this gem) words only become profane when we deem them profane and allow them to be such. Using “profane” words only serves to demystify their meaning and decrease their social power and control.

I recently had a student write me an email describing her anxiety concerning an upcoming speech assignment. In her words, she was “sh#$ing bricks” and “scared off her a$$.”

Hmmmmm.

She then went on to say that she does not like profanity and cannot even write the profane words out. Poor f#@king girl.

Ugh.

I would suggest this “camouflaging” of “profane” words only serves to heighten their social taboo and perpetuate their power and intrigue. Seriously, are you all aware that some strands of Judaism are forbidden to write out the word, God? They must camouflage the word to G*d, for example, with this or some such other replacement symbol. I understand the reasoning behind this idea –it is all about giving God the highest amount of reverence and respect while not cheapening the nature of an eternal, infinite and all powerful G@d by simply being able to write out his (yes, his) name.

Using such logic, do you realize that all of you “profanity camouflagers” are elevating profanity to a deity-type status? You are providing profanity both reverence and respect. Your camouflage is providing the exact opposite effect of your intentions while continuing to perpetuate the perceived power of certain words. It is not necessary to use any variation of profanity, written out phonetically incorrect or not…just use a non-profane equivalent. And while you’re at it, stop with the substitute freakins, goshes, darns, cruds and fudges. Stop the madness –cuss for G%d’s sake. These words also serve to make you look like a pretentious d^%k…whoops.

If you want to deflate and cheapen the power of profane words, use them, in excess.

And, lastly…

4. Because we can! This is America, correct? The land of free speech, correct? Why would we metaphorically shit all over our founding fathers by not using what they fought so hard for us to attain? Fuck yeah Thomas Jefferson and hell to the yes George Washington! I, for one, will not give in to this very un-American madness of not using profanity.

So, for the sake of good communication, our health and wellness, our society and our American right to free speech, cuss away my friends. Again, I am not suggesting to use it all places, all the time, without good reason -it simply must be an option in our vocabulary arsenal.

As for all of you “holier-than-thou” douche-bags who want to restrict and ban others use of their G*d-given right and very American right to use profanity -grow a pair and well, just grow up. If you don’t want to use it, don’t. Just don’t tell me and others what we should or should say in terms of our own self-expression.

Now ask me how I really f*cking feel.

Language’s Little Lies: The Evolving Nature Of Words And Phrases That Make No Cents

After a heavy week, I needed to write something to lighten the mood. Thus….

I am not a big fan of language. I believe it to be skewed, imperfect and wrought with potential dangers. Unfortunately it is all we got to connect with each other in our global village. So, in that spirit, this blog intends to clear up some frequent misuses, or at least inconsistencies, in the English language.

Having traveled to many non-English speaking countries while having some friends whose English is a second, or perhaps even a third, language, I possess a heightened sensitivity to English phrasing and colloquialisms.  We have so many inconsistencies in our English vernacular it must be very difficult for anyone who was not born and bred into the language to gain a “firm grasp” (though I’m not grasping anything) on its use. In fact, it must be “hard as shit” to learn…never mind the fact that I could think of a thousand different substances that possess far greater hardness and density to express this level of difficulty…even for the most constipated among us.

I think you know where I am headed. I understand slang (i.e. sick, dope, bling, pimp) yet what I am talking about are words or phrases firmly embedded in our everyday, somewhat informal, lexicon…at least for some of us.

So what do you say we “get this party started” (ironically it’s a blog, not a party) with a bang?

Speaking of bangs, we all rightly say that we “shoot” or “fire” a gun though why do we also “shoot an email,” or, now, “shoot a text?” I suppose it is no different from when we “shot a picture” as both phrases make absolutely no sense. If we literally either “shoot a picture” or “shoot an email” we would end up only with a nasty mess of celluloid bits and/or small chunks of microchips and metal.

Consider Rene’s favorite phrases (and she knows how I feel about them), “pop the trunk” or “pop the hood.” We do not pop these things -we open or even “release” these things. We pop a balloon, pop a bubble and even pop our corn. Hoods and trunks? These mechanisms are highly resistant to popping…and, in fact, I would argue are quite unpoppable.

What about those phrases we use as a sign we do not care for something?  Consider the phrase, “I don’t give a shit/crap.” If we really want someone to know we care little for something, would we not want to give them our crap as a sign of its largetotal lack of value? Conversely, if someone does not care for something of mine, why would I claim, “You do not give a crap?” If someone is not giving me their crap that is a good thing…like monkeys with their enemies, we would throw our crap at bad ideas. I suppose one could argue that you care so little for something you would not even give that them your least valuable possession -your crap- I would contend that giving them your crap is a far worse fate than not giving a crap.

Closely related to this-and the more accurate phrase- would be, “I don’t give a fuck” -and this makes perfect sense. Why do we use shit/crap and fuck as if they are synonymous? Last time I checked crap was quite unpleasant while “to fuck” is, well, awesome. If I tell someone “I do not give a fuck,” it means I am not going to part with something quite valuable in my life. If I tell someone they do not give a fuck, they are not willing to offer up something valuable for my idea.

I hereby resolve that it is high time we all stopped giving a fuck and started giving a crap when we hear a bad idea.

And speaking of crap, none of us ever “take a crap,” we all, “leave a crap.” For that matter, unless you are remodeling your bathroom and are in the Home Depot looking for prefab shower installations, no one ever “takes a shower” either. We experience, perhaps even enjoy, a shower or bath, yet we never “take” one.

I really do not mean to harp on bodily functions, though the next time you are “going to vomit,” could send me vomit’s address and perhaps I could join you? Perhaps they live next door to their close cousins pee and poop. Often times when our body is preparing to do something we mistake this for a location we are going to…no, the bodily functions come to us and we await their arrival, we do not go to it. You are never “going to pee or poop” as the pee and poop pleasantly comes to you.

There are just some phrases in our language that reflect something we do not do anymore yet we would never know it based on our language use. The next time someone tells you they are writing a book, ask them what kind of pen they are using. The fact is, they are not “writing” a book; they may be typing one, creating one or even constructing one. The last author to write and/or “pen” a book was probably Charles Dickens.

Our language needs to keep up with our expanding technologies.

Technology is quickly changing the way we use language. Five years ago if someone told me they wanted to “Facetime” me I either would have been disgusted or delighted, pending the hotness of the requester -and don’t get me started on someone who wants to “Skype” me.

In regards to evolving technologies, back when I was raising kids, if you told me you bought some nice ear buds, I would have thought you purchased dogs that can play football.

Some phrases I understand in practice, yet if you really think about them in the theoretical sense, they are “hard to swallow.”

For example, would we ever want someone to really, “lend us a hand?”  If we desire someone’s help I am quite certain we would prefer they use two hands. If anything it should read, could you please “lend me both hands?” Speaking of needing assistance, why do we need to “pick up the slack?” Would it not be better if we were to tighten the slack?  At the very least “slack” should only be picked up for the purpose of discarding it.

And please do not get me started on the “I am hungry” thing. You may feel hungry or desire food, but rest assured, you are not hungry or famished or starving or full, you are (insert first name here).

It is now time to start “winding down” this blog. Of course this blog has no levers or cranks, but I think you get the idea.

And speaking of down.

A friend informed me the other day, anyone who gives a good “blow job,” should be fired. Last time I checked, there is absolutely no blowing involved in a BJ “worth its salt.”

But you knew that.

And probably don’t give a shit…or was it fuck? Whatever.

 

 

Some People Find Happiness, Jesus or Themselves: I Found Ro

I found Ro. That’s right. You heard me. I found him. And I feel damn good about it.

Let me explain.

I am currently in Paris, France.  (It seems weird to add “France” to the word “Paris” as the city has a unique way of standing on it’s own with no need for identifying its larger boundary -as opposed to Perris, California I suppose).

This time around I am with a group of about 20 twenty-somethings yet, ironically, in the context I find myself I am merely a fellow traveller along with them. I am not their “boss” or leader – I am, in many ways, a type of peer with them. I strangely feel like Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School” or Will Ferrel in “Old School” as I travel on a pretour trip through Europe before I begin teaching for the semester in London (do I have to add England?). In any case, here I am while our leader and guide is all of 25.

Though the old man of the group, I feel in many ways I am as vulnerable and as very much a travelling “newbie” as they are.  This came to light this morning.

We arrived last night and I had some dinner with some French friends (and 5 twenty somethings, btw) and actually had a rather pleasant first night after not sleeping for nearly 35 hours.

It was when I awoke this morning and decided to go visit my French friend Ro, who lives on the outskirts of Paris –only a mere 40 minute train ride from where I am staying- that I realized my traveling vulnerabilities.  As I found myself straying from my twenty something tour package and opting to venture out on my own, I was in essentially the same place I was about 3 years ago when I visited Paris for the first time- alone, in a strange city, with a strange language, with strange geography of which I knew absolutely nothing about.

I experienced some moderate anxiety concerning my traveling to see Ro.  What if I get lost? How can I communicate with anyone?  I then realized I am in a big city with civilized human beings and a train system that is very internationally friendly. What is the worst that can happen? I am forced to eat bread and cheese until an English speaking French person can give me a hand? It is not like I am in the deserts of the Sudan – not knowing how I will survive Ebola and have to decide which insects to eat for survival.

Thus I put on my big boy traveling panties and off I went.

I safely made it to my final train exit when things got a little tricky. The directions provided went like this: “Exit on the right through the tunnel.”  Wait…did that mean the several tunnels that encounter each stop immediately when you get off the train…meaning I would have to go the far right immediate exit? Or did it mean enter any tunnel and when you exit the train station to go to the right? So, like any good grammatical contextual analyzer, I decide to read on and see if it offered any additional clues:

“Then pass the glass building while following the street on the left.”

Fine. I will exit the train station and look for a glass building and just head that direction.

I looked left. A glass building! Well, kind of. It was definitely more glass than your average Paris building but could it really be considered a “glass building?”

I could only guess what a “glass building” meant to a Frenchman in comparison and contrast with what it means to me…a California surfer-type with little interest in building design yet has seen his fair share of Los Angeles glass buildings.

Just look for a glass building, Jimmy, do not freeze with directional analysis paralysis,” I informed my meta-self. “Just go with your gut.

The problem was that only in Paris are most buildings made of 100 year-old bricks and cement with very few windows –as if windows were designed as an afterthought by engineers who decided that a small view may be a good idea, for some much needed ventilation at the very least. I determined that if you find any building that has more than a few glass panels in Paris it could be considered a “glass building.”

Yet still, was I looking for a building with a few extra windows or the damn Crystal Cathedral?

So I followed this glass building with suspicion. Again, I did what any good contextual analyzer would do, I read on for the next clue.

“Turn right at the bakery,” it read.

Great. Every corner in Paris is a bakery with mouthwatering carbohydrates and fattening cheeses. However, I became wary of the suspicious “glass building” I was following as it appeared to lead me to a residential area hence, no bakery. So I walked back to where I came out of the train station and went the other way. And, alas, I saw THE glass building. There was no mistaking this one –glass from bottom to top.

I guess glass buildings are like porn –hard to describe though you know it when you see it.

Now where was the damn bakery? I walked a couple of blocks not knowing at which bakery to turn right at. So I looked for more clues:

“Just past the hotel,” it read.

I do not know the word hotel in French though I saw a logo on a building that seemed “hotel-ish” and, lo and behold, a bakery just beyond it.

I am freaking Columbo mixed with Sherlock Holmes with a dusting of Hardy Boys,” I thought with smug satisfaction.

Not really. But I was pretty proud of me as I continued to successfully avoid the potential of Paris Ebola.

But my work was not done. Not even close. I had to meander a few more turns and buzz a door that had the number 11 on it, walk in, go up the stairwell on the left to the second floor and knock on the first door on the left.

I did all of this successfully…or so I thought.

When the door opened it was an old Frenchmen with a filthy apartment who did not speak a lick of English.

“Ro? Is Ro here? Do you know Ro?”

“Beswee boo doo doo oiu oo0 Dubai,” I heard…or something like that.

It is so strange how when two people do not know each others language keep talking to each other as if repetition will bring sudden linguistic enlightenment.

“Ro,” I repeated. “Ro. Is he here. Where is he? Do you know Ro. Ro. Ro Ro.”

My nonverbal skills kicked into full gear. It is at times like this I wish I was a feminine woman –trained in the art of nonverbal subtleties- searching for some universal nonverbal common ground and understanding.

He appeared a very kind man as he knocked on the neighbor’s door and a woman answered. He then again said, “Beswee boo doo doo oiu oo0 Dubai,” to the woman. I spelled out Ro’s name on a sheet of paper he provided and she smiled and pointed up another floor.

“Thank  y ..ahhh…Merci,” I proudly told her, quite proud I could finally use one of the three words I know in French.

As it turns out those weird French people consider the first floor the ZERO floor and our third floor is their second floor.

I went up and knocked –on the third floor door, not the second, as some things Americans just have flat out right- and out walked Ro.

I did it. I survived the rough jungles of Paris.

I am that good.

An hour of conversation later, I departed and just went back the same way I came.

So this 51 year-old did what any 20 something admittedly could do much better –navigate through a strange city with a strange language with strange people- yet I feel so accomplished and satisfied as if I told my 51 year-old neurons to quit carving that neural rut. I told my neurons to live a little, to carve new paths.

Damn, I want to make my neurons my bitch.

I feel younger already. Watch out twenty somethings –you have a match. Why?

Because I found Ro.

 

Profanity And Language, WTF? A Closer Look At The 6 Different Types of Cursers. Warning: Explicit Language Ahead

Recently in one of my online communication courses, the subject of profanity and cursing was discussed.  Many do not realize there  is a difference between the two, as profanity, or the “profane” can be a conceptual idea while cursing is utilizing specific “bad” words. As one who essentially never cursed the lion’s share of my adult life and now curses liberally, I find the subject of great interest and, actually, pretty important.

Thus, the conversation was started with a 25 year-old female stating the following on our discussion board:Let me start by saying that I spent a lot of time as a child with my stubborn grandma who smoked like a chimney.  She also cursed like a sailor.  With that said, I didn’t curse so much when I was a child, but as I’ve grown, I have picked up this sailor cursing habit; and yes, I blame it on my grandmother.  So, as many of my peers and siblings do not mind the cursing (I also believe cursing is embedded in my generations’ language) I do realize that my elders and the older generation do not find this language attractive.  Some men that I have dated have also commented on my cursing in a negative way, and I just say “Fuck you.”  I’m kidding… I have realized that I can come off “unladylike” and childish to certain people, so I have learned to refrain from cursing in front of certain people.  I do this to respect that particular person I’m with; I don’t mind cursing and it is simply the way I was raised and a part of my language and expresses my laidback personality.  I never intend to insult people with this type of language and I’ve learned it can do just that.  So I now am very cautious of who I curse in front of.  It’s amazing how something as little as cursing or slang can have a big impact on how one perceives you or your culture as a whole.”

A female, approximately the same age, responded with this:“I completely agree about cursing being a staple in today’s generation! I also find it comical that people say it is “unladylike”. What is “ladylike” anyway? Crossing legs? Being a man’s beck and call? Then count me in as “unladylike”!

You go girl. I’m down with the feminist stuff. Totes.

So, what is it? Cursing good? Cursing bad? Should we? Shouldn’t we? So many different ways to go with this blog. I could write of the philosophical outlooks on using profanity and its cultural effects. Or perhaps even the psychological dimensions of the interplay of profane language with human thoughts processes and behavior. Naaaah. Instead I realized that there are essentially 6 different types of people and their relationship to swearing and it might be fun to recognize each type. Which one are you? Be honest.

1. The Never, Ever Curser. This is essentially what I was for many years. Cursing to me was a sign of weakness and expressed a lack of self-control. I mean, if one cannot control their tongue how could they control anything else in their life? There is no hint of the profane in this person’s vocabulary. Even in times of extreme anger, silence is the preferred choice over any hint of profanity. This is “Father Know Best” language meets Ward Cleaver for a good delicious dialogue over milk and cookies. In my opinion, when one has young children this is not a bad route to take. Therefore it was quite a compliment when my 20 year-old daughter recently told me “good job” as she explained she never even knew the “F-word” existed until she was 11.

2. The Replacer Curser. This is the goshdarnit crowd. For gosh sakes, you know the ones, they replace what would be a nicely placed swear word with a freaking PG version. This is the world where crap becomes crud and the ass is transformed to a butt. All the intent of a swear word is present without actually committing the swear crime, for Pete’s sake. Some might think this person is just full of bullroar, as I do. Think of the person who violates the spirit of the law yet cleverly remains true to the freaking letter of it. They like to think people do not give a fudge about their picking replacement vocabulary or else they can just go to heck.

3. The Cleaned Up Curser. In the cleaned up curser world, they like to dangerously push the language limits yet will only dabble in the swear words that are deemed only moderately profane.  Typically the word ass can be used because it can also refer to a donkey, hence acceptable. Even dick and pussy can be used due to their relationship to a person’s name or pet feline. In this world, shit is still far too much yet crap is just fine. Of course I never really understood the difference between shit and crap; I guess the former is just a shittier version of the latter. In addition, damn is ok because water can be collected behind it and god can still declare you to hell in its name. Oh, and speaking of damnation, hell is ok as well. And if it’s good enough for god? It’s good enough for the cleaned up curser, godddammit. Generally these people are very poor cussers and do not use even their cleaned up versions effectively, perhaps due to the fact they are not privy to the full arsenal of profanity. For example, they may confuse the hard-headed man to be a pussy while the soft coward to be a dick. Whoops. This could lead to real fustercluck.

4. The Regrettable Curser. This is the person who will liberally use swear words yet still feel a sense of shame in the process. These people will often try not to cuss, yet fail quite miserably. My suspicion is that these people probably got their mouth washed out with soap or their ass backhanded at some point in their childhood, due to cussing, and never really got over this traumatic experience. Typically this is the final phase for many before transforming into the next possible phase of cursing, the Discerning Curser.

5. The Discerning Curser. I would probably place myself in this category. Why? I do use curse words yet not flippantly so. I think about it. I gauge my audience. I assess. As the conversation above will attest, I communicate with a generation -by and large and with many exceptions- of those who liberally curse. You know, the 18-28 year old motherfuckers who do not give a shit about profanity in language and actually respond quite well to it. However, the discerning curser can still reign it in when necessary and not drop F-bombs while visiting grandma at Beverly Manor or to their little brother at Mountainview Elementary. The Discerning Curser will occasionally drop a profane bomb at the wrong time yet will instantly recognize and address the transgression.

6. The Out of Control Curser. This curser is the completely out of control asshole who has no idea when fucking too much is just too fucking much.  Whether a fucking ball game, bar, nursing home, or goddamm kindergarten playground, for fuck’s sake, it’s all fucking good shit and the right time to drop profane fucking words to any dick or cunt within earshot. I think you assholes get the goddamm idea.

So which one are you and why? I really do believe a nicely placed profane word, given the right context to the right audience is not only acceptable, it is the preferred nomenclature. It is a bit like watching a film and the characters are drinking a made up brand of soda, like Cole instead of Coke, or Pipsi instead of Pepsi. I feel cheated. I want the real thing. So it is with my language  -I want the real thing dammit. Don’t cheat me and the rest of the world out of profane sugar with your aspartame language.

And so the discussion will continue. As a former “never, ever curser” just realize I have a lot of damn time to make up for.